Candice Carty-Williams and Bernadine Evaristo have made history by becoming the first black authors to win top prizes at the British Book Awards.
Carty-Williams took home Book of the Year with her novel Queenie while Evaristo scooped up Author of the Year for her novel Girl, Woman, Other.
Of her win, Carty-Williams said she was proud but also “sad and confused” that she was the first black writer to receive the award.
She said: “Overall, this win makes me hopeful that although I’m the first, the industry are waking up to the fact that I shouldn’t and won’t be the last.
Carty-Williams’ Queenie is centred around a young black woman in London “desperately trying to navigate her way through a hot mess of shifting cultures and toxic relationships.
The book was praised by British Book awards Judge – Pandora Sykes – who said:“The power of Queenie is the way it makes you feel: energised; moved; comforted. It is such an assured and original piece of debut fiction.
“Weighty issues about identity, race, family, heterosexuality and mental health are distilled into prose which is easily digestible, but extremely impactful.”
Following her win for Author of the Year with Girl, Woman, Other, Evaristo said: “I was already adjusting to seeing my name on the bestseller list for 20 weeks, off and on, but then to hit the top spot and then to realise that I was the first woman of colour to get there since records began, well, it’s a lot to take in.
“I’ve been writing for a very long time, and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that my work is finally reaching a wider readership. It’s also fantastic to see so many other books by writers of colour storming the charts. I’m pretty sure this is unprecedented. Of course, this has been triggered by the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and we should always remember that.”
The British Book awards took place virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.